Weird Tales: Peter Atwood on My Wife is not a Spy

Writer: Peter Atwood
Weird Tales Story: All In (Issue #350, May/June)
Writer Bio: Peter Atwood is a writer and editor who lives in Ottawa, Canada, where he once grew up and to where he returned after living in Toronto, Seoul, and Cairo.


My wife is not a spy. She does have top secret clearance and, at times, I have first learned about an incident at work on our walk to the grocery store, out of range of the bugs it was best to assume were in the apartment. The circumstances behind these facts, sadly, are much less glamorous than they sound. (Hell, there are corporate non-disclosure agreements that wouldn’t let you reveal the dress code for casual Fridays.)

My wife, however, has met spies, and I guess I have too, and the stories that get swapped when we’re out to dinner with her embassy colleagues all have the same patina of the mundane.

In Beijing, when the secret police break into your home, little is secret about the affair. You’re likely to return to your door unlocked, your shopping list on the table, not by the phone where you left it, your bedside reading opened, and dusty footprints across the rug. But this is deliberate clumsiness-you know without doubt they were there.

In Khartoum, an immigration officer visiting from the embassy in Cairo was surprised when his local driver picked him up at the airport, opened the trunk, stepped back, and then blithely watched him pile his own luggage in. The driver’s lack of customer service became clear later in the week when the immigration officers noticed guards and police on the street saluting whenever they stopped.

In Seoul, a diplomat became accustomed to his political minder always trailing a block behind or watching from across the intersection. Once, puzzling out which direction to turn-buildings are not numbered in any order in South Korea’s capital, and what numbers exist relate to a geographic gu, or narrow district, not in any helpful way to the street you’re on-the minder, who knew the diplomat’s appointments for the day, walked up. “Mister, you are looking for the ministry of naval industry?” he offers, and then helpfully gives directions.

My friends joke about the black leather cat suit hidden in my wife’s closet and the Walther PPK in her purse. And while I think she’s got enough sultriness to pull off such a costume, Halloween is my only hope of seeing it.

She did pluck a long hair from my sweater the other day, stretched it between her fingers, held it up to the light, and pointed out that it was too fair and thin to be one of hers. And while, sadly, the circumstances behind another woman’s hair on my collar are much less glamorous than I might wish, it was evidence enough that she, I think, would make a competent spy.

7 comments on “Weird Tales: Peter Atwood on My Wife is not a Spy

  1. Linda Lindsey says:

    You just got me to subscribe. :-)

  2. Jerome Stueart says:

    Man, that’s a great piece. Spy or not, you have adventurous times. Personally, I think, that if she WERE a spy, you would have to write such a piece to cover her tracks, which makes me think that she must be a spy. Hehe. Congrats on the story in Weird Tales!

  3. P.K. Brask says:

    Who’s really spying on whom? Great piece. Well spied.

  4. jon s. says:

    nice one! i’ve always suspected the world of espionage is far more mundane than we’d ever imagine. now i’m thinking about that guy assigned to tail you in Seoul: graduates top of the class, scores a job with the intelligence agency and dreams of his future 007 life… only to wind up staking out embassy staff spouses.

    but now i’m curious. do all diplomatic husbands get tailed like that? perhaps *you’re* the spy.

  5. Loved the writing, and the juxtaposition of spy and Canada seems funny in itself.

  6. This is great. I guess it’s kind of comforting to know beyond a shadow of a doubt who’s spying on you. Sometimes when I’m talking on the phone I throw out a juicy little tidbit (as in, “Hmm, now what does the B in FBI stand for? Is it balustrade? Is it bungalow? Is it brobdingnagian?”; or “You know what? The CIA can kick the FBI’s *ass*.”) in the hopes that the agent listening will slip up and jump in. No luck yet.

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